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Sickened: The True Story of a Lost Childhood

by Julie Gregory

A young girl is perched on the cold chrome of yet another doctor's examining table, missing yet another day of school. Just twelve, she's tall, undernourished and weak. It's four o'clock, and she hasn't been allowed to eat anything all day - in fact she is often not allowed to eat much at all. She's terrified. Her mother, on the other hand, seems curiously excited. She's about to suggest open heart surgery on her child to "get to the bottom of this. " She checks her teeth for lipstick and, as the doctor enters, shoots the girl a warning glance. This child will not ruin her plans. Show them how sick you are - or else. From early childhood, Julie Gregory was continually X-rayed, medicated, starved and operated on-in the vain pursuit of an illness that was created in her mother's mind. Munchausen by proxy (or MBP) is the world's most hidden, misunderstood and lethal form of child abuse, in which the caretaker-almost always the mother-invents or induces symptoms in her child because she craves the attention of medical professionals. Julie Gregory is lucky to be alive. Most MBP children die. And Gregory not only survived, she escaped the powerful orbit of her mother's madness and rebuilt her identity as a vibrant, healthy young woman. SICKENED is a remarkable memoir that will leave an indelible mark on any one who reads it - Gregory's writing is superb and she interweaves this harrowing story with a fierce humour that somehow make this even more heartbreaking. This is not only a mesmerising piece of writing, but it's the first memoir by a survivor of Munchausen by proxy. Punctuated with Julie's actual medical records, it re-creates the bizarre cocoon of her family life along with the astonishing naiveté of medical professionals and social workers. It also exposes the twisted bonds of terror and love that roped Julie's family together-including the love that made a child willing to sacrifice herself to win her mother's happiness. The realisation that the sickness lay not in herself, but in her mother, would not come to Julie until adulthood. But when it did, it would strike like lightning. Through her painful metamorphosis, she discovered the courage to save her own life-and, ultimately, the life of the girl her mother had found to take her place.

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